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1984 book question

  1. Jun 13, 2003 #1
    In 1984 you are introduced to a man named Syme. This man works for the Research Department, which is re-writing (11 Edition) the Newspeak Dictionary.

    Now, what I don't understand is this...why is he so enthusiastic about the idea of re-writing the dictionary so that in the future it has so few words. The purpose of this, as he knows and states (and he is portrayed as an intelligent man) is to limit and control every aspect of life. It will "narrow the range of thought" and as he says it will narrow the range of consciousness so far that you basically don't even think on your own.

    The question is, why would someone of intelligence be so for limiting the range of consciousness/thought? I don't understand why they would want this.

    Another question I have is, is it to have this:

    "Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten."

    by limiting the amount of words, his example is the word good and the word bad, instead of having bad as a word they just use ungood. For different levels of good they use plusgood and doubleplusgood, does this really describe the levels of good BETTER than excellent, perfect, etc?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 13, 2003 #2


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    The following is my interpretation only, and probably wrong.:smile:

    First, you must understand the critical idea of doublethink in Orwell's writings. Doublethought is how the people hold two contradictory ideas in their head at the same time, by the suspension of rationality. War is peace, so to speak. Slavery is freedom.

    The idea is that by the doctrine of IngSoc, freedom is translated into a freedom from thought and responsibility. The mental connection is made such that being free can only exist by creating imposed limits. Because Syme wishes to believe that, and cannot bear the reality of what he is doing, he does believe it, and so carries out his work. Does he really want this? The nature of the state is such that it dictates what the citizens want.

    It all depends on what is better. The point of Ingsoc is control, control to such an extent that it extends to self-control within their brain. If a strict and rigid way of thinking is ingrain so far into the language of thought, then it is easier for absolute requirements to be ingrained into the mind. By starting from a new language, the erasure of history is complete, and the power of the state affirmed.
  4. Jun 15, 2003 #3

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    FZ's replies sound great to me. I was going to say that Syme was doing it simply because its what he has to do. The state has complete control (almost) and everyone does their job... I didn't think to bring inthe double think thing, so FZ's reply captured the concept better than mine probably.

    as for the double plus stuff, does being able to express 'perfect' actually help us in anyway? I mean, really, what does 'perfect' mean anyway? Because whenever we use it, we most certainly aren't using it true to its definition! So we are really just saying that it is 'really really really good. Like, as good as we can imagine'...well, amybe doubleplusgood could be made to mean its equivalent?
  5. Jun 15, 2003 #4
    Of course the word is only as relevant as its definition, but my question is, let's say someone gives you great news and you respond with "That's doubleplusgood!" and the next day they give you great news, but slightly less great and you say "That's doubleplusgood!" again. They have no way of knowing which is better news according to your response. With the current alternatives to good you can get a better gauge of how "good" it really is.

    This doublethink thing, why do people subscribe to it? Are they truely fooled into thinking that War is Peace? Is there first thought War can't be peace, but then they realize the Party says war is peace, so they 'rethink' what they KNOW and make what they KNOW (war isn't peace) false because of what the party tells them they know? (if that makes sense):smile: I just don't understand how you can have a person think to things, both being true but contradictory.
  6. Jun 15, 2003 #5

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    Even right now, words fail to express exactly what we mean. It is quite impossible to have a word for every degree of emotion. So we make do. Newspeak is designed to dumb down the language, not make it more beautiful or more descriptive.

    And I think the idea is, that you hold both beliefs, but only think of one at any one time :smile: If you aren't thinking of a belief, then it doesn't cause any contradictions.
  7. Jun 16, 2003 #6
    The point is, language is a map of the brain...teh more complex the map, the more places you can go...Orwell suggests simplifying the brain by simplifying the language.
  8. Jun 16, 2003 #7
    Hence, if the party simplifies the language, they no longer are free to act as they will?

    I also see what you are saying AG, I had the misconception that words did describe "language" well, but it is more or less a reflection of personal experience, interpretation, etc.
  9. Jun 20, 2003 #8
    Basically what they are doing is brain-washing. if you hear war is peace enough times you obviously begin to believe it. So eventually you not only believe that war equates to peace, but the meaning of peace is eliminated, and even if you hear the word peace, you think of it as a positive experience. So peace is war, and war is good, because peace is good. And in that way, you accept that war equates to the same feelings as peace. It's the "doublethought" theory. Eventually you have a bunch of people who equate happiness with war and thus are easily swayed go to war. The eventual goal is to eliminate individuality and independent thought. By reducing vocabulary, you achieve this, as there become less and less ways to express your thoughts. If you can't communicate ideas effectively, then you can only absorb what is fed to you and accept it.

    Sorry if I'm touching on points that have been made.
  10. Jun 22, 2003 #9
    Well, language is an expression of concepts, and to reduce the vocabulary is, in a way, to reduce the amount of concepts which can be coherently expressed.
  11. Jun 22, 2003 #10
    Don't forget that words of language also express emotions. Alot of funny constructs would be destroyed by reducing language, getting it into dry mathematics. There is difference between excited "Perfect!" and 'doubleplusgood'

    Deep Blue after kicking Kasparov's arse: "Its been emotional."
  12. Jun 22, 2003 #11
    Oh this is good! This is what I was trying to get at, but couldn't put in words (ironic?:smile:).

    Perfect can describe exactly what you wanted, but doubleplusgood could mean exactly what you wanted or slightly different but more accurate than plusgood.

    Did the concept of doublethink originate at the peak of the triangle? My logic is this, the peak (Big Brother in Oceania's case) is always at war to preserve the balance of society, which voids the cause of war (or the cause they feed the citizens at least), they fight to gain world domination, but they know they cannot possibly have this total domination because the balance would be thrown off and it would ultimately lead to their destruction. So they fight to win but don't want to win, in their minds they try as hard as they can to defeat their enemies but at the same time wouldn't defeat them if they had the opportunity. Basically, doublethink - want to win, don't want to win.

    This filtered through to the Inner Party in the same way, except the Inner Party knows the Party is wrong, but at the same time know they are right and work for them.

    What I don't understand is, why would the Party want the little people to practice doublethink, wouldn't they want them to be completely brain-washed and never think differently from what the party says. You will notice that they feed them things to doublethink though, such as their slogan. Can anybody shed any light on this idea?
  13. Jun 24, 2003 #12
    The reason is, if you train people to accept contradiction, the Party can change its mind as often as it likes, and no one will question the fact that the current position is the exact opposite of the past position.
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